Ian Froeb's STL 100

Photo by Christian Gooden (Post-Dispatch)

Mai Lee

What more do I — or any other food writer — need to tell you about Mai Lee? You know the story. The Trans come to St. Louis as refugees from Vietnam. Lee Tran opens a Chinese restaurant and gradually introduces Vietnamese dishes. Mai Lee becomes a hit and not only survives but thrives after moving to an unlikely new home on the ground floor of a parking garage behind a big-box shopping plaza. The food remains top-notch: soups, noodles and stir-fries, meat and seafood, Vietnamese and Chinese. Mai Lee's success helps the next generation, Lee Tran's son Qui, introduce a pho and ramen restaurant, Nudo House. Yes, the Trans' story is as American as the Constitution. Now, to take a big slurp of Mai Lee's signature pho broth and check the national news.

Hours: Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday (closed Monday)

Last year's ranking: Rest of the Best

Opened: 1985

Many St. Louis-area restaurants are closed or limiting their dining options during the coronavirus pandemic.